March Madness could cost employers $4 billion in productivity

March Madness isn’t just a tournament title -- it’s also an accurate description of office productivity during the NCAA Tournament.

You would be hard-pressed to find another annual event that costs employers an estimated $4 billion annually.

According to a 2017 report from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., a job placement center out of Chicago, Illinois,  51 million office workers join office pools during March Madness.

Based on the country’s average hourly wage of $25.35, the outplacement consultancy firm estimates employers will lose $1.3 billion in pay to slacking employees per hour of distraction.

Between time spent filling out brackets and watching tournament games live, the total loss of productivity could approach $4 billion.

On the surface, ignoring a sporting event that takes place during regular work hours might appear like sound business practice. After all, companies need to generate profit, and it's hard to generate profit when your employees are huddled around a television, right? Wrong.

What this perspective overlooks is that productivity isn't simply a function of how many hours we spend at the office. It also depends on the quality of our workplace experience. And one critical feature of that experience is how closely connected we feel to our colleagues.

While productivity will decline, Challenger, Gray & Christmas recommends companies embrace the tournament.

"Efforts to suppress the 'madness' would most likely result in long-term damage to employee morale, loyalty, and engagement that would far outweigh any short-term benefit to productivity," the firm said in its 2017 report.